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The U of O's Instagram post featuring one of its Protection Services Officers wearing a thin blue line patch. Screenshot: Charley Dutil & Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum

University removed picture from its Instagram, unclear if Protection Services was aware of officer wearing thin blue line flag patch.

A picture published on the University of Ottawa’s official Instagram page featuring a Protection Services officer sporting a thin blue line flag patch on Aug.25 has sparked outrage in the U of O community. 

Taken down hours after it was published the University was lambasted in the comments of the publication and on social media for not only publishing a picture of a Protection Services officer wearing a patch associated with Blue Lives Matter but for also for either allowing or not knowing that their Protection Services officers wear custom patches (such as the thin blue line flag patch) on their uniforms.    

“it’s incredibly inappropriate given the context and the climate we find ourselves in,” wrote University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) president Babacar Faye in a message to the Fulcrum. “It shows that there’s still a lack of touch with the Black community. Students raised concerns about Protection and discrimination last year, and the fact that we still find ourselves dealing with this is disappointing given the universities’ promise of action.”

Blue Lives Matter is a countermovement created back in 2014 in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement has been criticized for attempting to diminish and ridiculizing the Black Lives Matter movement by creating a narrative where police are the victims of reverse discrimination diminishing the very real discrimination BIPOC folks feel on a daily basis. 

Post doesn’t help Protection Services image with U of O Black community

“Personally I think it’s extremely out of touch and in poor taste given Protection’s problematic history with carding Black students,” wrote Sam Yee a member of UOSU’s Equity Committee in a message to the Fulcrum. “And although I do not know what it’s like to be a Black student on the uOttawa campus when Black students are saying that this makes them feel unsafe, that’s a huge problem. Protection is supposed to help folks on campus feel safe.“

There have been three incidents of Black students being carded on the U of O campus that have been publicized since April 2019.

First was Jamal Boyce who in June 2019 was asked to show identification by U of O Protection Services officers while skateboarding on campus, he didn’t have his wallet on him and was subsequently handcuffed and left to sit on the sidewalk of one of the biggest intersections on campus for two hours.  

Then in September 2019 Wiliston Mason a Community Advisor at the Annex residence was carded by the security guard on duty that night at the residence. The security guard prevented Mason from entering his living quarters until Protection Services were called and Mason showed them his fob that he had originally used to enter the residence in the first place. The security guard was not a Protection Services officer.

Finally, this summer, Ali Mubiru, and his friends told the Fulcrum that in April 2019 he had been carded aboard his own car by a Protection Services officer in the 90U residence parking lot.

Independent reports commissioned by the U of O’s Human Rights Office found that both Boyce and Mason were victims of racial discrimination.

University staying silent

The university has yet to publish any kind of public statement about the publication.

“It’s disappointing and strange that the University hasn’t issued a statement on this”, wrote Tim Gulliver the UOSU’s advocacy commissioner in a message to the Fulcrum. “The University cannot and should not simply sweep this under the rug.”   

Following the publication and removal of the Instagram post depicting the officer wearing the thin blue line flag patch, the Fulcrum asked the U of O a set of questions including a question asking if Protection Services officers are allowed to wear custom patches on their uniforms. More then seven days later the university has yet to respond to the Fulcrum’s questions. 

Not a secluded incident

This was not the first picture to be published by the university of this particular Protection Services officer circulating on campus with the thin blue line flag patch. On Aug.20 the University Gazette (the U of O’s editorially controlled publication) published a photo of the officer in an article that has since been taken down

The images published in the U of O Gazette. Screenshot: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum

More to come…